The Reverse Matthew Effect: Catastrophe and Consequence in Scientific Teams
with Ginger Jin, Susan Feng Lu, and Brian Uzzi
Abstract: What are the individual rewards to working in teams? This question extends across many production settings but is of long-standing interest in science and innovation, where the "Matthew Effect" suggests that eminent team members garner credit for great works at the expense of less eminent team members. In this paper, we study this question in reverse, examining highly negative events -- article retractions. Using the Web of Science, we investigate how retractions affect citations to the authors' prior publications. We find that the Matthew Effect works in reverse – namely, scientific misconduct imposes little citation penalty on eminent coauthors. By contrast, less eminent coauthors face substantial citation declines to their prior work, and especially when they are teamed with an eminent author. A simple Bayesian model is used to interpret the results. These findings suggest that a good reputation can have protective properties, but at the expense of those with less established reputations.